Globe public editor: Too much or not enough Rob Ford coverage?

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

A number of you have written to me to praise, question, encourage or assail The Globe’s coverage of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. The comments ranged from readers wanting more tough questions asked, to those who think the media is harassing Mr. Ford. Others echoed Mr. Ford’s political message track that he is a little guy fighting the rich elites while a few wondered why Justin Trudeau isn’t facing the same kind of scrutiny. Let’s deal with a question first:

If the media had done their job, we would have known this stuff before he was elected. Where were you three years ago?

This question is a great one because it suggests responsibility on the part of both the media and the electorate to understand who they are voting for and what their policies are likely to be. The media needs to be fair and balanced and outline the pros and cons of the candidates.

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While most of the articles leading up to the municipal election were about who was leading in the polls or what their policies were, The Globe and other media have covered the travails of then city councillor Rob Ford over the years. The issues about his behaviour at the Air Canada Centre, the drunk driving and marijuana possession charge were well covered.

Here is a mayoral primer written days before the municipal vote.

Here is a column and another one about some of his controversies.

More coverage

On the issue of continuing coverage and investigating, here’s an excellent note from a reader who wants to know more after my Saturday column Why the media keep pushing for the facts.

“But not nearly hard enough,” he said. “Nearly everything we have seen in the past few weeks is common or garden reporting. It took no effort at all to report that Ford is guilty of associating with dangerous criminals, racism, homophobia, intimidation, issuing death threats, using illegal drugs, driving under the influence, abuse of staff, serial lying, public drunkenness and foul language. And sending lawyers to court is both easy and routine.

“What this emerging story really needs is some good old-fashioned investigative reporting. Much like the excellent Globe and Mail piece earlier this year on the drug history of the Fords. The answers are out there. Please pursue them with relentless and urgent investigative journalism before the story is scooped by the British or American press. Because that would be just a further embarrassment to Toronto and Canada.”

Here’s another reader wanting more, with high standards.

“I have read your article in (Saturday’s) Globe and Mail and I agree that media has the obligation to keep the public informed even if it has to seek court’s help. However, I also think media has the obligation to provide the information without any bias. It should be totally independent and non-judgmental.”

Several readers wrote in to say keep up the good work and don’t stop reporting. Here’s one:

“I think the media has generally covered the Ford circus quite reasonably. Aside from a picture in one Toronto paper, I forget which one, of him leaving a KFC fast food outlet with a paper bag, which was really no one’s business, I think the coverage has been quite fair. There is always a grey area with public figures, how does his public life affect his private life and vice versa? But Ford has gone to extremes, he displays much of the worst of his private life in public and sometimes these are associated with his official position. I think the public is entitled to know that. And Ford has eventually admitted to everything the media has reported.”

There were also a number of readers who criticized the coverage.

“I am disappointed in the vicious callousness of your paper…… The so-called “Ford Nation” is the epitome of powerful interests. The longer this sad affair continues fanned by virtually the entire Canadian and U.S. and now British media, the more the larger picture is going to emerge and even become revolutionary. It is the weak poor and middle class (read ‘Ford Nation’) versus the 1 per cent .”

That same note of the elites versus Ford Nation (even though the Ford family runs a multimillion dollar business) was expressed by another reader who said: “I am one of these who think Rob Ford has been hounded beyond belief right from the beginning – a blue collar, red-faced overweight guy who just doesn’t have the ‘right’ image for the sophisticated GTA.”

To continue reading this column, please visit, where it was originally published.

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